Dallas- Joined by students, faculty, and criminal justice advocates, Representative Helen Giddings announced a new collaboration between the Legislature and the University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law.
“The students of the UNT Dallas College of Law have worked tirelessly to come up with ways to confront disparities in employment opportunities for ex-offenders. With their support and inspiration, I will carry House Bills 1507 and 1508 to confront disparities in employment opportunities for ex-offenders."
HB 1507 encourages a judge to consider granting judicial clemency, or the releasing of all penalties and disabilities that persist after a sentence has been served. It additionally gives ex-offenders additional information on their rights and the opportunity to earn judicial clemency.
HB 1508 requires schools and training programs to provide information to students prior to enrollment about the potential impact of a conviction upon trying to obtain certain licenses. According to the Law School, ex-offenders are often unaware of the barriers they face in employment during their certification process- spending thousands of dollars and dedicating hours of work in vain.
Former federal judge and UNT Dallas College of Law Dean, Royal Furgeson, emphasized the importance of the work and highlighted the students' efforts.
"We’ve had a number of students interested in one of the great questions facing our society- how do we help people who have paid their debt to society? This is the students' work. This is from their own concerns and interest in what we can do to make the criminal justice system fairer, better, and more open to new ideas."
Also speaking at the press conference was Tina Naidoo, the executive director of the Texas Offender Reentry Initiative. Naidoo spoke about the importance of reentry reform in preventing ex-offender recidivism.
"I have Master's Degree clients who are working the toll booth at the DFW toll way, who aren't even competitive in employment because of their history. But when I hear (the students') passion to write up bills and collaborate with our state representative, to go and impact the system, this will take us a long way. We are very excited to be working together around these important reforms."
Representative Giddings closed the press conference by thanking the students and paving a path forward.
"I want to thank these students for their hard work. We hope this is the beginning of a desire to widen the scope of their legal work, to find ways to make a difference, to assist those who too often have no voice. With these important bills, they have begun that work. With their continued help, they will become law in the state of Texas."
Representative Helen Giddings proudly serves the cities of House District 109: Dallas, DeSoto, Cedar Hill, Glenn Heights, Hutchins, Lancaster, Wilmer, as well as part of Duncanville.
Contact: David Feigen